Sunday, October 29, 2000

Pirates of Venus

by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Edgar Rice Burroughs is a very famous writer, and with good reason. He has created some memorable characters such as Tarzan and John Carter of Mars. That didn't stop him from writing some klunkers, however. Okay, make that relative klunkers. Pirates of Venus is basically a John Carter ripoff: A man of Earth gets transported to another planet, (in this case, Venus -- or Amtor, as the natives call it) makes some friends, gets into trouble and falls in love with a beautiful princess who happens to like him, too. It's a great tale when you first hear it, but grows rather stale after you've gone through a few versions. If you haven't heard this particular storyline, then this book might be for you. (I would recommend A Princess of Mars, also by ERB, instead.) For me, I'll give it a pass. It's not horrible enough for the Elbe River, but it's among the most mediocre waiting room material.

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Sunday, October 22, 2000

The Weekend Genealogist

by Marcia Yannizze Melnyk

I've had a mild interest in genealogy for a number of years. I would love to know from where my ancestors came, but, alas, I don't want to do the actual work involved in tracking down the information. Or at least not all that much of it. Anyway, I thought The Weekend Genealogist would fit the bill for me. I was hoping it would show me the secrets to getting family information with a minimum amount of effort. In that area, I was disappointed. This book is for serious researchers -- those who will try to document names, places and whatever details they can find. It doesn't tell you how to avoid hard work, but rather how to make that effort more efficient and, hopefully, more productive. For a genealogical novice such as myself, it was interesting to catch a glimpse in another's avocation -- to sense the author's love of the field and to read the tales of genealogical research. Since I am a novice, I couldn't really judge the worth of the book to its intended audience. I liked it a lot, and it might be good waiting room material for you.

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Sunday, October 15, 2000

The Lost World

by Michael Crichton

This is sequel to the novel Jurassic Park. Like most sequels, this is not quite as good as the original. For those who haven't experienced Jurassic Park in book or movie form, it tells the tale of a company that figured out a way to recreate dinosaurs. They created a theme park to showcase the animals but before it could open, things went awry and some people died and some had an adventure. (An adventure is a really bad day which you happen to survive.) In The Lost World, folks again run afoul of these recreated dinos. The creators of the theme park, International Genetic Technologies (a.k.a. InGen) have gone bankrupt and destroyed the park, it's creatures and the data used to create them. But, of course, they didn't get all of it and some people have discovered the remains, namely the island housing the manufacturing facility and the dinos that escaped. Of those people, the good guys are wrestling with the question of extinction. When they discover InGen's island, they head there and try to observe some live dinos. The bad guys, on the other hand are trying to steal InGen's data in order to create their own dinos. Like the original, some people die, some people get hurt and the kids save the day. (After all, you can't kill the kids and expect to make the best seller list.) All in all, it's a good sequel, but a sequel is a sequel, so the best I can say is check it out.

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Sunday, October 08, 2000

No Doors, No Windows

by Harlan Ellison

This is a collection of stories that somewhat fit under the mystery/suspense category. Actually, I would create a subheading for many of these tales as "macho" stories. (If nothing else, Harlan Ellison exposes the futility of attempting strict categorization.) Basically, these were originally published in men's magazines in the 50's and 60's and have requisite scenes of sex and/or violence. Even so, they're all rather good, the highlights being "The Whimper of Whipped Dogs" and "Tired Old Man". There's not much else to say about it. I like Ellison enough that his works are almost always going to be recommended, but this particular volume is on my shelf.

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Sunday, October 01, 2000

Doctor Who and the Masque of Mandragora

by Philip Hinchcliffe

Dr. Who was a children's television series on the BBC from the early 60's to the late 80's. Many of the episodes were novelised for the reading public. Around 1979, the mid-70's episodes started appearing on PBS here in the U.S. and quickly found a following. (Of course, I remember reading that the average age of the viewers here was 35, compared to 10 in the U.K.) Ten of the novelisations were republished by Pinnacle Books for the new Dr. Who fans. The Masque of Mandragora was among the former and I was among the latter, so I bought it. Now I'm getting rid of it. Don't get me wrong, I think Dr. Who is great. The series is quite entertaining and some stories are quite imaginative. But Masque no longer makes the cut for me. The tale is about The Doctor and his companion, Sarah Jane Smith, (wipe that smirk off your face. This is children's literature) as they battle the malevolent energy of the Mandragora Helix in 15th Century Italy. (The Doctor, in case you are wondering, travels through time and space.) There are plenty of plot twists, political intrigue and even a slight bit of romance, but in this particular tale, the Doctor is never sufficiently challenged by the bad guys. He's almost too much in control. But since it's Dr. Who, and has a few good lines, I'll rate it as good waiting room material.

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